The Warmth & Wellbeing Scheme is a joint policy initiative between my Department and the Department of Health under the Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty and the Healthy Ireland Framework. The main aim of the Scheme is to validate, in an Irish context, the strong international evidence that making homes warmer, drier and more energy efficient can have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of people living with chronic respiratory conditions. The scheme was launched in 2016 as a time bound pilot for 3 years, but has remained open for applications into 2019 in order to recruit a sufficient sample of participants for the health impact evaluation of the scheme. The Scheme is being delivered by a team comprised of officials from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and Health Service Executive (HSE). Over €23 million has now been invested in upgrading over 1,100 homes in the pilot area.
The process of evaluating the Scheme is on-going and is being overseen by a Steering Group comprised of my Department, the Department of Health, SEAI and HSE. Initial reports from the HSE have indicated that the upgrades are delivering benefits to the health and wellbeing of participants. An initial review of the energy impacts of the scheme has shown that the average Building Energy Rating of participating homes improved from a D2 to a B3 with carbon emissions reducing by on average 2.2 tCO2/year.
It is expected that an interim report on the health impacts of the scheme, which is being undertaken by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, will be completed this year with the final evaluation scheduled for completion in 2021. The interim report will inform decisions in relation to the future of the scheme.
The retrofitting of 500,000 homes, to make them warmer and more energy efficient, is a key action under the Climate Action Plan. The Plan also commits to enhancing the approach and supports for households with lower incomes to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of their homes. This work will be informed by the experience from existing schemes in Ireland and other jurisdictions, as well as evidence gathered from pilot schemes including the Warmth and Wellbeing scheme.